Plants, Animals, People, and Places
Madagascar is a kosmic kaleidoscope. Visually, spiritually, economically, socially, animally,
EDUCATION. Just a thought – the villages throughout the country are widely scattered, lack fundamentals such as water and electricity and the notion of a school is probably directly behind building an ice rink and applying for an NHL franchise.
Has the notion of a school bus on wheels ever been tried? Thinking that a teacher could fill the bus with books, solar powered iPads, blackboard, chalk, etc, and arrange for regularly scheduled classes in each village. Usually by the time they are five or six, the children are actively involved in whatever form of agriculture the family is engaged in. Financial costs of education aside, fathers are often reluctant to let go of the additional labour their children provide. But I’m certain that a couple of hours a day a couple of days a week is a deal that could easily be sold. Other larger villages have been the recipient of foreign aid or corporate gifts. Once in a while the government pitches in too. Most schools, here and elsewhere are woefully understaffed and poorly supplied and maintained. Lori and I regularly voice the notion that the only path to a brighter future is through improved education and facilities. Nothing seen here or elsewhere has caused us to change our tune.
SUPERNATURAL. Regardless the level of sophistication, education, or social position, there is an underlying current that renders homage to the metaphysical.
Respect for departed ancestors along with their ongoing rituals that extend well beyond death is merely a single faction. When deceased, a body is interred, either in a cave or the ground. After several years, the corpse is exhumed and brought back to the village for a three day party involving dancing, drinking and a general hullabaloo. The bones are then brought to a final resting place and reinterred or recalled. A large tomb is constructed, zebus are sacrificed, an obelisk is erected and the beat goes on.
Other tribes, requiring upwards of three months to prepare the burial site cut down a species of tree that is referred to as the ‘formaldehyde tree’. The body is placed inside the trunk of the hollowed out tree and remains there until the tomb is ready. The quasi-coffin is kept in the family home until interment with all aspects of rotting flesh and gooey fluids remains in and absorbed by the wood.
The axe I hold is imbued with powers. According to locals it can be used to kill thieves who have gone to market and purchased a type of leaf that when ground into a paste and applied to a body causes bullets to bounce off a la Clark Kent.
CIRCUMCISION. Every Malagasy male has a bris. Every three or so years, the local witch doctor determines the best day, astrologically speaking, and the invites go out.
Children aged 3 to six participate in an all night village wide party. The children are refused sleep so that by the time the morning comes they are already half knocked out. A local anesthetic is injected into the penis and the cutting gets underway. The boy is held, ritually by the brother of the mother. Madagascar is a matriarchal society. The uncle is considered a physically stronger extension of the mother. Lox, bagels, and cream cheese form the basis of the post-game feast.
ZEBUS. Those beasts are EVERYWHERE!! Whereas India pays lip service to their sacred cows, the Malagasy take it to a whole new level.
These bovines are effectively the currency of the country. In fact, they appear ON the currency of the country. They are traded for wives, land, natural resources, draft choices and a zebu to be named later. If free agency ever gets a toe hold (hoof hold?) in this country, the agents are going to have a field day. I’ve also done my research and, while there is not total unanimity on the subject (as if there ever is), they appear to be kosher.
LEMURS. Cute, friendly, unabashedly confident, and varied in species, they embody the soul and spirit of this land.
The smallest species, the Mouse Lemur, measures about six centimetres in length (3 inches for my American cousins). It is nocturnal, lives high up in trees and is similar in colour to bark. Not easy to see, but we saw some. Please forgive Lori for not being able to photograph this critter; she’s good, but not that good. There are brown lemurs, sideways dancing white lemurs and baby toting ring tailed lemurs. They all want to move it, move it.
And with that, I’m going to move it, move it too. Enough random for you to absorb. More to follow soon
Oh yeah, and Happy New Year. Or as they say here – Happy New Year.